By now you have probably heard about the lawsuit filed by the fan who was
caught sleeping during a Yankees-Red Sox game. If not, here is a Yahoo
Article about the lawsuit.
http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/big-league-stew/fan-who-fell-asleep-during-yankees-red-sox-game-suing-for--10-million-203033996.html . In short, Andrew Rector, age 26, is seeking $10 million against Major
League Baseball and various other defendants for what he calls "an
avalanche of disparaging words" against him by the ESPN broadcasters
during the game.
A lot of people have asked for my thoughts on this lawsuit. The first thing
that comes to my mind is that it clearly appears to be a frivolous lawsuit
filed in the hope of generating media attention. I anticpate that the
case will quickly be thrown out of court. In fact, it does appear from
the video that the ESPN broadcasters said any of the things alleged in
the lawsuit. From a pure legal standpoint, defamation generally does not
protect people from commentary on their public actions. Moreover, most
tickets have an express provision on consent to be photographed or recorded
(all those little words on the back of tickets actually mean something).
So not only do I believe that this lawsuit will be thrown out quickly,
I would not be surprised if the defendants get sanctions against the plaintiff.
The problem with a lawsuit like this is that it negatively affects people
who have legitimate claims. Most people are unfamiliar with our judicial
system. Their main source of exposure to it comes from the media. The
media loves to report on frivolous lawsuits because they are usually outrageous
and generate more buzz and more website clicks. The unfortunate result
of this is that many people end up thinking that our civil justice system
is a run away train with people getting tons of money from frivolous lawsuits.
I can assure you that this is not the case. One of the benchmarks of our
democracy is that we have an open court system. As such, anybody can file
a lawsuit and put an arbitrary dollar amount on it, similar to what Mr.
Rector did in this case. However, our legal system has protections in
place whereby frivoulous lawsuits are disposed of quickly, and oftentimes
the plaintiff filing the frivolous lawsuit is sanctioned monetarily by
The moral of the story is don't let frivlous lawsuits cloud your judgment
about our country's legal system. These lawsuits are usually filed
simply to generate media buzz. In that regard, they unfortunately usually succeed.